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Part game, part party, all success

4/8/2010 - NBA

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mark Cuban was right. Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium had nothing to do with the game. The NBA's annual gathering of superstars merely served as the vehicle for a convergence of sports and entertainment extravagance heightened to a sensory level never before experienced under one roof by so many people.

Only one question remained by the time the sultry Shakira overheated the larger-than-life video boards and after Alicia Keys had Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony shoulder-shimmying and Kevin Garnett lip-synching along with a crowd of 108,713 as a glam-and-glitz halftime show wound down: When's this thing coming back?

"That question has been asked already by the right people," said Ski Austin, the NBA's beaming executive vice president of events and attractions. Yes, Mavericks owner Cuban assured, discussions to begin discussions to bring NBA All-Star Weekend back is a topic of discussion.

Sunday was a big win for the NBA. The league received tremendous positive attention for a game that easily set a world record for attendance at a basketball game. In recent years, fewer teams have bid for the All-Star Game for various reasons. Next year's game is back at Los Angeles' Staples Center after just seven seasons. The 2007 game in Las Vegas was controversy-filled and a black eye for the league.

Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, where a collaborative effort between Dallas' two visionary owners, Cuban and the Cowboys' Jerry Jones, was all about positive vibes.

"Coupled with the atmosphere, the 108,000 fans, the beautiful arena, the spectacle was as good as it gets as far as the NBA and basketball in our world," said Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash. "For us to play a basketball game in front of that many people is something that may never happen again, so it was a real spectacle, an event."

The fans, sensing something special, that Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night was the place to be, certainly showed up. In fact, they came in larger numbers than expected. Jones and Cuban always wanted 100,000, but the NBA balked at packing that many bodies into the stadium. Clearly the pull of Jones and Cuban swayed them to go for it.

They pulled it off well. Other than obvious crushes at entrances and in some concourses, the building held everyone rather comfortably.

And Jones' jewel, the 180-foot-long, 50-foot-high video board, as wide as the basketball court and 43 feet longer than the court at each end, made even seats nearly 300 feet above the playing court a crystal-clear vantage point.

Add twin digital ribbon boards circling the interior of the 3 million-square-foot showplace, a spectacular light display during musical acts and constant action and music, the entire event was an overload for the senses.

Nash For us to play a basketball game in front of that many people is something that may never happen again, so it was a real spectacle, an event.

-- Suns guard Steve Nash

Usher started the show as the house lights went down. Then the Eastern Conference All-Stars were announced. Before West team introductions, Usher got after it again on a large stage in the shape of a star.

That's the way it went, basketball followed by today's modern, hit singers and performers -- not, ahem, The Who -- followed by more basketball.

Former Maverick Rolando Blackman, who played in the 1986 All-Star Game at Reunion Arena, sat courtside for this one. He summed up the fan experience best.

"Fans have to get used to a new level of concentration," Blackman said. "The realm is going to be changing, and you have to adjust mentally. This stadium lends itself to entertainment and the enjoyment of it no matter where you're sitting."

Cuban watched the team introductions from the corner of the East bench, smiling like a kid getting his first autograph.

"Unbelievable," he said at that moment.

Basking in the obvious success of the venture in the game's second half, Cuban said, "I thought it could be amazing, but not this amazing."

Jones practically danced on his tip-toes as he made his way down the steps leading up to the raised playing court after an in-game interview with Cuban that was shown on the giant video board.

"We wanted to do this in a way basketball fans could uniquely enjoy it, and it's happened," Jones said.

The next mega-basketball event scheduled for Cowboys Stadium is the 2013 NCAA tournament regional round, followed by the 2014 Final Four. Jones said Sunday's attendance will again be the goal.

Mavericks All-Star Dirk Nowitzki addressed the crowd prior to tip-off and said all that needed to be said.

"Everything," he said, "is bigger in Texas."

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.